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Refugee task force

July 27, 2015

To deal with an influx of refugees, the wealthy southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg plans to set up a task force and build more shelters. It also wants to speed up the deportation of migrants from "safe" countries.

Deutschland Erstaufnahmestelle für Flüchtlinge in Baden-Württemberg
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Kästle

Baden-Württemberg, home to a huge share of the country's key manufacturing sector and one of Germany's wealthiest states, takes in 13 percent of all new refugees in Germany. In 2015, that could amount to as many as 80,000 people looking to claim asylum.

On Monday, Winfried Kretschmann, the state's first Green premier, hosted a refugee summit attended by around 70 representatives from local councils, charities, refugee centers, churches and business organizations.

Kretschmann said the number of available spaces for refugees would be raised from the current 9,000 to 20,000. An extra 30 million euros ($33.3 million) will be set aside to build or adapt accommodation for refugees, set up language courses and help refugees with administrative tasks, the premier said, prompting critics to point out that the amount is a mere drop in the ocean.

He announced the setting up of a task force for refugees, made up of members of various state ministries, to coordinate Baden-Württemberg's efforts.

Deutschland Flüchtlingsgipfel in Stuttgart - Bilkay Öney & Winfried Kretschmann
Kretschmann (right) pictured here with Integration Minister Bilkay ÖneyImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Murat

He also pledged to speed up the deportation of asylum seekers from so-called safe states, such as Serbia or other Balkan countries, which has seen thousands leave for Germany in search of a better life. But Kretschmann also said Germany needs to find new ways for them to enter Germany legally and thus be able to find work.

Local councils and regional governments across Germany are struggling to cope with an influx of refugees, both from war-torn hotspots such as Syria, but also from the Balkans.

They have called on the federal government to allocate further funds to set up more shelters. They are also urging the government to speed up asylum applications, which on average take seven months to be processed.

The summit comes as refugees shelters are overflowing and anti-refugee sentiment is rising in Germany. Last week, a refugee home in the south-western city of Karlsruhe was set alight. In Freital near Dresden in Germany's east, anti-refugee protesters have been demonstrating outside a refugee home for weeks.

But there have also been counter-demonstrations in Freital and elsewhere, with people carrying banners reading "refugees welcome." In Munich, thousands protested the regional government's tough stance on asylum seekers.

The Conservative Bavarian arm of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats had called for the faster deportation of refugees, particularly from safe countries that have been flocking to Germany in large numbers.

In total, there have been just under 180,000 requests for asylum across Germany, more than twice as much as during the same time last year, according to the Office for Migration.

ng/ (dpa, KNA)